photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ALONG FOR THE RIDE (HAT & BEARD, 2017) is a unique documentary in that it provides a narrative in which the narrator is not the focus. in fact the ANONYMITY of the narrator, SATYA DE LA MANITOU, makes all his observations of his late close friend / collaborator / benefactor of more than 40 years, the towering 20th century cultural icon DENNIS HOPPER, that much more intimate and powerful.
this film is a cultural artifact for the ages about a significant artist from a confidant who wishes to bring to light not only his PERSPECTIVE, but the equally valid threads and perspectives of past producers, actors, directors, architects, painters, musicians and artists that came into his orbit. with that in mind, notable participants in this film include directors WIM WENDERS (THE AMERICAN FRIEND), LAURENCE SCHILLER (THE AMERICAN DREAMER), PHILIPPE MORA (MOD DOG MORGAN) and DAVID LYNCH (BLUE VELVET), actors JULIE ADAMS, LINDA MANZ, CHRISTA LANG, MICHAEL MADSEN, STELLA GARCIA, DEAN STOCKWELL, artists EDWARD RUSCHA, JULIAN SCHNABEL and JAMIE HEWLETT, architect FRANK GEHRY and musicians MARK MOTHERSBAUGH (DEVO), DWIGHT YOAKAM and DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ) among others.
a cynic could definitely misinterpret and dismiss a figure such as SATYA as that of a garden variety HOLLYWOOD enabler and sycophant on first blush, but such an unfair assessment would not take into account the emotional, personal and artistic support he provided for years when HOPPER was in the wilderness after being blackballed in the aftermath of the release of his post EASY RIDER (COLUMBIA, 1969) directorial effort THE LAST MOVIE (UNIVERSAL, 1971). in fact, he wouldnt direct again until OUT OF THE BLUE (DISCOVERY, 1980). during that interim period it was SATYA among others who helped him navigate such peaks and valleys of his life and career with steadfast, unconditional support. enabler is a cruel term with loaded connotations, catalyst may be better.
THE LAST MOVIE, set in PERU, dealt with the CULTURAL BAGGAGE that cinema places on locations and indigenous peoples whose landscape is ultimately transformed by the experience in the mindset of viewers. in a sense cinema is a new form of COLONIALISM as westerners reassess and reinterpret the CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY of another and transfigure it into something less beautiful and ultimately alien to its inhabitants. i remember visiting CAMBODIA years walking among the wondrous ruins of ANGKOR WAT, which has a deep history in multi-layered HINDU and BUDDHIST iconography, and being told by a tour guide about some scene from a shitty ANGELINA JOLIE film (TOMB RAIDER) that was filmed there. that level of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION just felt sleazy and ultimately a form of theft. the sheer power of the location was immense on its own terms and did not need that extra layer to entice visitors, or so i thought. maybe some people went there because of that film. so in other words, HOPPER made a THOUGHTFUL film in THE LAST MOVIE that intelligently conveyed a COMPLEX theme that was a little too much for HOLLYWOOD and he fought for that vision like hell. that battle ultimately deprived him of the opportunity of making another film for nearly a decade, as studio execs thought otherwise irrespective of his having final cut over the project. HOPPER thus gained the reputation in HOLLYWOOD for being UNREASONABLE, not a team player and worse, UNHINGED.
being a first-rate acting talent saw HOPPER through the 1970s, in which his deep CURIOSITY that informed his directing was not satiated. little known in greater popular culture is the fact that HOPPER was a longtime art collector and had a knack for recognizing and valuing pieces by emerging artists like ANDY WARHOL and JULIAN SCHNABEL early in their careers. to understand HOPPER is to appreciate his multi-faceted ability to excel at various mediums beyond cinema, including as a PHOTOGRAPHER and WRITER. it was this capacity for EXPERIENTIAL INQUIRY about the world around him that made him such a unique artist, one who was constantly on the edge. he was also fiercely loyal as exemplified by his quiet ADVOCACY work in NEW MEXICO on behalf of the local NATIVE AMERICAN population, in fact he is buried in TAOS according to the customs of the PUEBLOAN community.
this film was a lot to take in and i am not doing it justice, but it succeeded in providing a DELICATE multi-perspective portrait of a COMPLICATED, SECRETIVE artist and immense cultural force. i will definitely return to this film as i seek out and watch the remainder of his directorial filmography that i have been unaware of until now. THE LAST MOVIE is most definitely worth checking out.